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ulu; SONiA; Sim Redmond Band

Coming to Town

Who: ulu
What: "ulu"
Where: Cary St. Café, Thursday Oct. 4, 10 p.m., $5

Why: New York City-based instrumental jazz and groove quartet, ulu, has been touring like crazy since its formation in 1997. With sounds that come across like a devious stepchild of the Greyboy All stars or funkier sibling to Medeski, Martin & Wood, ulu lays down thick funk beats on thin jazz grooves. "Mr. Ruca" starts off with a klezmer sound that transforms into a Pink Panther-influenced soulful exploration. Scott Chasolen (Rhodes, clavinet, organ and Moog), Aaron Gardner (tenor sax/flute), David Hoffman (drums) and Justin Wallace (bass) sidestep jazz, funk, ambient and electric sounds, presenting instead, a mixed-up, dance-inducing fusion of all. Unlike the sometimes-drowsy tunes of MMW, ulu keeps things lively. Although "Poppo's Back" is spacier than most tracks, it still takes unexpected turns while keeping your feet tapping. The band managed to translate their transient grooves nicely onto disc, but no doubt their live show is much more powerful. — Carrie Nieman

Who: SONiA
What: "Live at the Down Home"
Where: Canal Club, Wednesday Oct. 3, 8 p.m., $6 in advance, $8 at the show

Why: Performers who bubble effusively with a relentlessly upbeat spirit can grow tiresome. But this Baltimore native sells peace and love with such soul that it's hard not to marvel at her talent and the connection she can make with a listener. Throughout these 15 cuts and this hour-plus of music recorded live, SONiA uses simple acoustic guitar and harmonica backing to frame a voice and messages that cut to the quick. "Be the One" is a powerful and fragile love song that aches with intent, while "Box of Tissues" weaves a sad story of betrayal. "Dance the Night" is a good-time rock tune and "Two Eggs Over Easy" paints small portraits of those who consider their endless search for love with everyday hope and sadness. The best track, "Me, Too," overflows with a sense of personal and universal freedom that is a patriotic tune for the time. Some songs work better than others, but anyone with this kind of humane spirit deserves a listen. Even if one disagrees with some of her politics or her sexual orientation, it's impossible to deny this artist's passion and guts. — Ames Arnold

Who: Sim Redmond Band
What: "Life is Water"
Where: Alley Katz, Thursday Oct. 4, 10:30 p.m., $5 in advance, $6 at the door

Why: The Sim Redmond Band's airy, bouncing roots/Afro-Caribbean/reggae music comes together in a colorful, almost dreamy sound. Uniit Carruyo's angelic voice harmonizes romantically with Sim Redmond's earthy tenor. Redmond tinkers on a Zimbabwean hand piano called the mbira on several numbers like "Tangisa" and "All is not Lost," giving them a spacy world beat. But don't be turned off by the world-beat label, the Ithaca, NY, band may feature the sounds of West and South Africa, but vocally they've got a folk sound that explores truth, dreams and love. The album's most rocking track, "Bird Reggae" features a heavier beat than most of its lite folk tunes, but still floats on Carruyo's sweet vocals. Seeing this band live, I image concert-goers will be in for some lively beats, creative rhythms, audience twirling and plenty of wide-eyed smiles. — C.N.

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